Print-First vs. Screen-First: The Lizzie Bennet Diaries and Jane Austen Fans

Curator's Note

In episode seven of The Lizzie Bennet Diaries (originally posted on YouTube on April 30, 2012), a thoroughly modern version of Jane Austen’s beloved heroine Elizabeth Bennet recounts her experience of what she calls “the most awkward dance…ever” with one William Darcy. Meanwhile, over on Twitter, accounts purportedly belonging to Darcy and his friends, Bing and Caroline Lee, seemingly reference the same event, but from a different perspective. The juxtaposition of contemporary social media content with content adapted from a classic literary novel helped distinguish The Lizzie Bennet Diaries (LBD) as a different kind of Austen adaptation, one that would ultimately bring together two generations of Janeites: the print-first fans who first discovered Elizabeth and Darcy through the novel, and screen-first fans who first encountered Austen via a film or television adaptation.

The categorization of Janeites as “print-first” fans or “screen-first” fans stems from Bolin’s concept of “generational media experiences” or defining introductions to media content that contribute to an individual’s fannish identity. For example, some Janeites might recall reading Austen’s novel in their childhood or as part of a high school literature class. Others might point to Colin Firth’s infamous dive into a lake in the BBC’s 1995 television adaptation of Pride and Prejudice as the start of their fandom. With its multimedia, multimodal approach to the narrative and combination of audiovisual and textual elements, LBD provided print-first fans with an adaptation they could compare to the source material while simultaneously serving as an “entry-level adaptation” for screen-first fans by making the content more accessible and easier to understand. Perhaps most importantly, LBD provided both print-first and screen-first fans with new understandings of the timeless story and its characters. As we see in episode seven, Lizzie used her vlog to share her (biased) opinion of Darcy and the dance. Darcy’s Twitter feed, however, gave fans a glimpse of his interactions with friends and family, offering a distinct contrast and highlighting an important theme of both LBD and Austen’s novel: first impressions are not always correct.  


Sources Referenced:

Bolin, Göran. “Media Generations: Objective and subjective media landscapes and nostalgia among generations of media users.” Participations: Journal of Audience and Reception Studies 11, no. 2 (2014): 103-131.

Leitch, Thomas. Film Adaptation and its Discontents: From Gone with the Wind to The Passion of the Christ. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2007.

 The Lizzie Bennet Diaries. “The Most Awkward Dance Ever – Ep: 7.” YouTube, 30 April 2012.

Add new comment

Log in or register to add a comment.